Scripture Reading: Romans 7.13-25
The second half of Romans 7 is certainly no stranger to disagreement in interpretation. How can we better understand Paul’s personal struggle between the flesh and spirit?
Previously, Paul has argued that salvation does not come through the law. In fact, Christians are married to Christ so that we may bear fruit for God, 7.4. I think verse 13 holds the key to understanding the rest of the chapter. In it, Paul argues that sin, not law, brings death. The law (in this context, the Law of Moses) is good. In fact, Paul describes it as holy and the commandment is holy and righteous and good, 7.12. Sin, on the other hand, is bad. It can work through what is good (law) to produce death. Everything from verse 14 to the end of the chapter should be understood as a defense of this premise.
To bolster his claim, Paul begins to describe his personal struggle. I think there are flashbacks to when he practiced the jewish religion and its demands for law-keeping. But, I also think he accurately describes the human condition, even the battle the Christian faces with temptation and sin. Note the “I” statements in 7.14-24. Paul:
- is fleshly, 7.14.
- is captive to sin, 7.14.
- is lacking in his ability to carry out God’s will, 7.15.
- delights in the law and wants to keep it, but is unable to do what he desires, 7.18.
- realizes the power/allure of sin can be stronger than his strongest desire to do right, 7.20.
How often does sin work through your body to get you to do what you do not want to do? Like Paul, our desire and delight may be in living God’s way, but sometimes the flesh gets its way. There is truly a war going on between our spirit and our flesh. That is why he says “wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” That is why he would later say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” Philippians 1.21. How would dying be gain for Paul? How would it be gain for us? Answer: the absence of temptation and sin. That has to be one of the biggest attractions about heaven.
So, what do we do in the meantime? We keep resisting the flesh. When the flesh takes over, we pick ourself back up and get going along the spiritual path. We move forward in total trust. That’s how Paul could say there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8.1.
You can learn more about Romans and practical applications from it every Tuesday at Kettering Church of Christ. Our Tuesday Bible study is at 1 pm. Join us! You’ll be glad you did.
Scripture Reading: PSALM 36.1-4
Years ago, a man came to my office in tears. His wife caught him watching porn. He had been fighting the battle since his youth. He once thought that as he got older the problem would go away. It didn’t, and for years, he suffered in silence. Who else struggles with silent sin? It doesn’t have to be a porn addiction. It could be anger, greed, envy, or pride. There is a way out. God can help us break free from secret sin.
On Sunday, we’ll discuss these important things:
- A clean conscience produces confidence.
- We must win the battle on the inside. No one can do that for us.
- We must guard our past, future, and present thoughts.
- Embrace a five-step process that leads to victory.
Before we gather this week, please take a few moments and read these passages: Job 31-32.1; 2 Corinthians 4.2; 1.12; James 1.13-15; Ezekiel 23.19; Psalm 36.1-4; Psalm 51.10; Isaiah 55.7; Colossians 3.5-8; Job 31.1; Psalm 119.11; and Philippians 3.8-11.
For Your Thought and Reflection
- Read Job 31-32.1 and 2 Corinthians 4.2; 1.12. What can we learn from the conscience of Job and Paul? How could they stand with confidence?
- If you don’t win the battle on the inside, can you expect to have success on the outside? Explain.
- Have any of your past sins ever motivated you to commit sin in the present or future? How does God feel about those who plan to sin?
- Why do you think David asked God to create a clean heart inside him?
- Can you think of any Scriptures that might relate to this statement? “Your spiritual output is in direct proportion to the intake of spiritual truth.” List them out
Scripture Reading: HAGGAI 1
For seven decades, the land of God’s people stood desolate. The few physical reminders from their previous existence lay in ruins. Where once sons and daughters of God roamed, now foreigners dwelled, Ezra 3.3. When God’s people returned to Israel from Babylon in 536 BC, they must have experienced every emotion. Jubilation, exhilaration, and praise coupled with sorrow, regret, and fear. Eventually, their faith gave way to fear and they stopped rebuilding God’s temple, Ezra 4.4. Opposition by their adversaries led to sixteen years of inaction, 4.24. God patiently waited and when He could hold out no more, He sent two prophets to call his people to action.
Haggai is one of those prophets. He comes onto the scene with an abrupt and challenging message. Consider your ways, he says in Haggai 1.5. After more than a decade-and-a-half of apathy, it was time for self examination. While God’s people dwelt in comfort, God’s house sat in ruins, 1.4. There had been no demonstration of faith. There were no bold initiatives. Their vision went only as far as they could see. And, what they could see was only opposition and uncertainty. For these jews, the status quo centered around fear, not faith.
What about us? Today we face growing opposition toward Christianity. It feels as if people are becoming more resistant to our message. Most Americans seem to be satisfied with where they are religiously. We’re told people are no longer interested in doctrine. We’re told our ways are too narrow and too old for the newer generations. And so, we turn inward. We tend toward defensiveness, negativity, and cynicism. Once these attitudes have taken over, its easy to throw up our hands and say, what’s the use? So, we often allow precious time to go by, while we maintain what we have and get away from the mission God called us to, Matthew 28.19-20.
Maybe it’s time for us to consider our ways! Times of difficulty call for bold initiatives driven by faith. What will you do to get out of your comfort zone and share the gospel with someone? What will local churches do collectively to reach out into their communities with the message of grace? Will they be open to newer methods? Will they be willing to shift their paradigm in order to be effective? Times like these are not for pessimism and shrinking away from the mission. Just like God told the people in Haggai 2.4-5, we can be strong, …and…. work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts.
Will we trust God enough to move forward by faith?
You can learn more about Haggai and practical applications from it’s 38 verses today at Kettering Church of Christ. Bible study is at 1 pm & 7.30 pm. Join us! You’ll be glad you did.
Confronting the Reality of Addiction
a preview of our Sunday sermon (February 7, 2016)
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6.10-13
Our society is paralyzed in the grip of addiction. Alcohol, sex, pornography, food, video games, cell phones, sports, illegal and prescription drugs, you name it. Many try, but just can’t seem to kick the habit. While there certainly are physical and emotional solutions to these problems, just how important is the spiritual component? Is simple will power enough? Paul gives us the answer in Romans 7.15. Despite the reality of the human condition, victory is possible.
On Sunday, we’ll discuss three essentials for victory:
- Personal surrender and a dependence on God.
- Admission of our weaknesses to others.
- Follow the Scripture’s path to real change.
Before we gather this week, please take a few moments and read these passages: Proverbs 5.22; Romans 7.15; 2 Corinthians 1.9; Ephesians 5.16-18, 24-25; Ecclesiastes 4.9-12; Galatians 6.1-2; and James 1.5, 22; 2.17; 3.13; 4.6-8, 12; 5.16.
For Your Thought and Reflection
Why do you think will power isn’t enough to overcome an addiction? How does reliance on it contribute to a cycle of failure and regret?
After reading Galatians 5.24-25, what are some practical ways you can crucify the flesh, especially when it comes to battling an addiction?
Why do you think it is so hard to admit our weaknesses and failings to others?
If you have an addiction, how are some ways you can apply the passages in James? (See the Scriptures listed above).
If you know someone battling addiction, what are some ways you can encourage them?